Overlooked by the nearby majestic mountains, Luang Prabang is an arcadia of culture, rich in history and a renowned spiritual sanctuary, just a few of the reasons why it has justifiably become one of South East Asia’s most prominent tourist destinations. It offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Lao culture while staying in authentic guesthouses, or taste the bygone times in one of the many renovated former French colonial residences. In recent years, many of the city’s most elegant buildings have been converted into hotels. Properties like the impressive Luang Say Residence keep the essence of yesteryear firmly intact, with traditional furniture and ornaments, coupled with the latest amenities, which contribute towards the pleasure of the visit.
Situated at the crossroads of Indochinese tradition, but with chic and current luxury, Luang Prabang holds the accolade as one of Asia’s best preserved yet contemporary cities, which is noticeable in the regal French panache of the properties that pepper the avenues, stylish reminders of the country’s colonial history. Balconies are wrapped around quaint whitewashed houses, Parisian shuttered windows and blossoming terraces. A number of Luang Prabang's grand buildings, most of which were former noble residences in years past, have been renovated into hotels, while maintaining the aristocratic essence of a lost regal era.
These converted villas and residences tend to boast contemporary comforts, paired with authentic architecture, providing visitors the best of worlds, past and present. The interior design and décor of these properties are given great focus, detailed stone floors, elaborate wooden staircases and walls painted with striking colours, vivifying common areas. In line with the kingdom’s celebrated reputation as a cultural hub, local Lao motifs and native fabrics are regularly used to maintain a sense of location.
Many of the villa hotels In Luang Prabang contain sophisticated restaurants, serving up Lao, French and Pan-Asia cuisine, with linen wearing waiters subtly tending to guests in lavish surrounds, preserving the colonial theme. Meals can be enjoyed in superb dining rooms, with walls adorned with unique art, or outside in the leafy, landscaped gardens, accompanied by the calming sounds of water features and nature.
A popular option is to arrive or leave Luang Prabang by boat. Companies such as Mekong Cruises offer relaxing river trips to and from the Thai border, as well as to more remote locations in the south. Combining a cruise with a stay at a grand colonial residence is the perfect way to experience the culture, nature and heritage of this faned Asian landmark destination.